10 Ft. Ganja Plant
10 Deadly Shots Vol. II
ROIR
Street: 04.24
10 Ft. Ganja Plant = Toots & the Maytals + The Abyssinians – vocals
This reggae super group is just so damn tight. The 10 jams on this second volume of instrumental tracks are some of the most focused, refined pieces in the genre. Classic two-step with a laid-back tempo, the lack of vocals is made up for with consistency and easy listening. Snappy drums, rich bass and the expressive playing of guitarist and keyboardist Roger Rivas, on loan from The Aggrolites, makes this a perfect, chilling record. It definitely does not have as much horn section presence as their last release, but it’s lots of fun anyway. The tracks are all solid, but usually don’t have a hook to make them distinct, which doesn’t matter—just let the whole record play through! This is afternoon-on-the-porch music and the kind of reggae you don’t have to be high to enjoy. –Rio Connelly

2:54
Self-titled
Fat Possum Records
Street: 05.28
2:54 = The Raveonettes + Zulu Winter + Poe
2:54 is a vehicle for Colette and Hannah Thurlow, the founding sister duo who wrote and composed their entire debut self-titled album. This album creeps under your skin in a very dark and melodic way, the subtle low-tuned guitars matched with a driving bass line and a cool beat; each song sounds like a lost relic from the low-fi era that's been given a new shine with a hint of alt/indie. But all of this is masked by the dueling vocals from both the Thurlows, like a fog sinking into the room, both dark and hauntingly sexy, pulling you into every song regardless of emotion. This is the sultry female rock band you wish toured through your town, but won't. –Gavin Sheehan

Aaron Turley
TV Kid
War Artist Records
Street: 01.12
Aaron Turley = (Julian Casablancas + Kyle Andrews) * A.A. Bondy
This dude is a diamond in a rough—a rough that is more famous for having tube vegetables than downtempo, garage folk musicians. Idaho native Aaron Turley creates music that sounds more at home in a basement venue on the East Coast. In TV Kid, Turley starts up with the "Strummy Sun," which, due to the nonchalant, woozy vocalizing and modest guitar formulas, plays like a late Strokes B-side. The latter tracks take on a pacifying shift, prominently in "Contradiction," which introduces more electronic production and a muzzling distortion on his vocals, giving his lyrics the intonation of a lulling voicemail message. The folk element becomes more obvious in the hazy and weary ballad "Like Summer." If fellow natives Build to Spill were powerful enough to cultivate a sizable music scene in Idaho, then I could safely assume Aaron Turley has the talent to take it a step further. –Gregory Gerulat

Ahab
The Giant
Napalm
Street: 05.25
Ahab = While Heaven Wept + Evoken + Mournful Congregation
Germany’s Ahab offer a gracious and fascinating metal nod to the American epic novel by Herman Melville, Moby Dick. The band’s self-dubbed “nautik doom metal,” crafted by former gothic metallers Midnattsol, has been blowing salt-stenched air in the faces of listeners since their acclaimed 2006 debut, The Call of the Wretched Sea. The Giant, while ripe and rampant in dirgeland, is less abrasive and more contemplative, more in the style of epic doom metal. The down-tuned riffing (still present) morphs into more developed songs less intent on sounding gritty and nasty and more open and sweeping—expect some magnificent guitar solos. “Aeons Elapse” and “Antarctica the Polymorphess” are a fresh, pontificating, pungent mix of the prior funeral doom influence in Ahab’s sound, and the stuff of epic doom legend—see Candlemass and While Heaven Wept. The breathing room provided by large, meandering melodies and songwriting intent on crafting a flowing record makes The Giant Ahab’s best effort. Its multiple layers and diminished influence of dirge begs for repeated listens. –Bryer Wharton

Allah-Las
Tell Me (What’s On Your Mind) EP
Innovative Leisure
Street: 04.17
Allah-Las = Growlers + Nick Waterhouse + Night Beats
This four-song EP did exactly what any good EP does: made me anxious for this ’60s-influenced, surf-pop four-piece to release their full-length album. I fell in love with this group after seeing them open for the Growlers earlier this year, and then twice more during SXSW, and I am happy to finally have a handful of tracks to curb my Allah-Las withdrawals. Tell Me features some of my favorites from the group: “Catamaran,” which inspires visions of sunsets on beaches and hand-holding, and “Long Journey,” sung by the band’s drummer, which I think might be the sexiest love song of the year. The EP also includes the instrumental “Sacred Sands” and the title track from the EP, “Tell Me (What’s On Your Mind).” I wish this had clocked in at eight tracks instead of four.
–Jeanette D. Moses

Andre Williams & The Sadies
Night & Day
Yep Roc
Street: 05.15
Andre Williams = Barry White + Ike Turner
For an elderly former junkie, Andre Williams sure is prolific. This is his third album to come out this year, and his first with Canada’s finest live band: The Sadies. To be fair, the songs on Night & Day were recorded in two separate sessions, the first one was several years ago. In the time between sessions, Williams kicked his drug habit and toured nonstop. In an attempt to get him his due, The Sadies returned to the studio to finish up the record. The result is a classic Andre Williams collection. The opening track, “I Got to Get Shorty Out of Jail,” pairs the signature Sadies groove with a few gravelly, spoken verses about coming to a friend’s rescue. “America (You Say Change is Gonna Come)” details the complicated, unvarnished feelings that a 70-year-old black man has for a country that has not always been kind. This is a common theme on the first half of the record. The second part, recorded after a successful stint in rehab, is much more positive. With “Hey Baby!” Williams lays down a classic motor-city love duet à la Ike and Tina. In fact, there are so many bright spots on this album that you almost forget about the low parts. That being said, it’s a damn good thing that they’re there, because it is in showcasing this dichotomy that the aging crooner walks the listener through his journey. The difference, dare I say, is night and day. Good on you, Andre, good on you (06.08 and 06.09 with Gold Stars @ Garage on Beck). –James Bennett

Architects (UK)
Daybreaker
Century Media
Street: 06.05
Architects = Misery Signals + Your Demise + The Dead Lay Waiting
UK metal outfit Architects have raised the bar on their newest album and delivered a full-blown adventure of metalcore deliciousness. I absolutely love Sam Carter’s vocals on this album. From the strained, emotional screaming that rips through your chest like a hanging hook in a butcher shop to the strong, clean vocals in tracks like “Truth, Be Told,” he is impressive throughout. The melody on this album is incredibly cinematic­—the end of “Daybreak” is a prime example. Listen to the clean, lilting singing lifting over beautiful fretwork and anxious keyboards, and try not to imagine yourself in some action movie escape sequence. This album has great accessibility in its range: from the sorrowful “Behind The Throne” to the bipolar, rage-filled despair of “Devil’s Island.” The musical tone reminds me of metalcore in its heyday in the early ’00s, and yet grown up somehow, more complex, with more attention to composition and detail. The album drags you in whether you like it or not, boxes your ears a bit, and then releases you exhausted, surprised and glad you listened. –Megan Kennedy

Bad Liquor Pond
Blue Smoke Orange Sky
MT6 Records
Street: 01.20
Bad Liquor Pond = The Byrds + The Zombies
Blue Smoke Orange Sky is a serviceable but faceless psych-rock album, resembling what a studio band might whip up as a soundtrack for a ’60s scene in a TV show. There are multiple tracks featuring sitar, and while it’s good sitar playing, I have to wonder what business the sitar has on a rock album in 2012 aside from set dressing. “Hallways” is the one track that begins to overcome the paint-by-numbers feel of the rest of the songs and features some great lead guitar. It’s not often that I think this, but this album could use some more guitar solos. –Nate Housley

Black Earth
Pink Champagne
Self-Released
Street: 01.03
Black Earth = Foo Fighters + Deep Purple + Iron Maiden
This album was originally supposed to be a six-song EP, but the band decided to add some more songs and put out a complete record. Luckily, those four extra songs turn out to be the highlights of the record, as the rest of the album sounds pretty generic and bland. One of the added tunes, “Dear Lady Lean,” sounds like it came straight out of the 1970s, with a blasting organ that reminded me of Holy Water Buffalo. Other tracks such as “Her Song” and “Single Stitch” share a similar sound and are a good listen. But on the rest of the songs, the band’s sound loses its appeal and becomes more commercial, with lots of heavy guitar licks accented by thunderous drum fills. The late addition of songs makes it sound like there are two different bands playing on the album, and the tunes listed above are really the only thing making this album worthwhile. –Jory Carroll

The Brian Jonestown Massacre
Aufheben
A Records
Street: 05.01
The Brian Jonestown Massacre = Spacemen 3 - J Spaceman + Jarvis Cocker + Middle Eastern sitar tomfoolery
Were it not for hours upon hours logged at my crappy Walgreens gig, developing photos and listening to Jim Croce and Strawberry Alarm Clock over the PA, I’d have forever construed The Brian Jonestown Massacre as another British drone-clone, spawned ’midst the ’80s Jesus and Mary Chain/Creation Records orgy ... but the Yankee lilt of “Walking Up to Handgrenades” (a tinny, Haight-Ashbury reinterpretation of The Stone Roses’ “Fools Gold”) or the swimmy wash of “Clouds are Lies” prove that for all the bleating British-ism the band espouses (Zeppelin, New Order, Beatles lyrical puns and pilfered Stones riffs), their primary trip is their home-brewed, San Franciscan psych. Aufheben has the standard BJM vibe, simple songs that perpetually unravel into the stratosphere, fuzzy and tunefully laconic, with a tribal Middle Eastern yowl (you know, instruments with unpronounceable names) squirted atop the ambient casserole. Oh, and apparently, “Aufheben” is German for “bitchin’ drum hypnosis.” Absolute truth. –Dylan Chadwick

Brothertiger
Golden Years
Mush Records
Street: 03.27
Brothertiger = The Magician + Classixx + Moby – cheesiness
In a period of time where dubstep is the dominant force over the clubs, nu-disco is feeling almost as dead at the genre it spawned from. But the solo project of Ohio-based composer/producer John Jagos has something going for it that a lot of the predecessors didn't: class. This debut album wasn't thrown together with the usual throwback patterns of overblown trumpets and driving bass lines that drive people off the dance floor. Instead, Golden Years takes a subtle approach with more synthesized beats and hooks, focusing more on the rhythm and the vocals to ease you into the music. In essence, Brothertiger abandons the “you've got to get down” attitude and adopts a more “come groove with this” state of mind. Golden Years is not going to be to everyone's taste, but it is definitely a nice change of pace to hear someone take a different approach. –Gavin Sheehan

Burzum
Umskiptar
Candlelight
Street: 05.22
Burzum = Belus + Fallen + Filosofem
Having—somewhat ironically—been shunned by black metal purists and chosen as the poster boy for “hipster black metal,” Burzum (aka Varg Vikernes) returns with his third full-length since his release from a Norwegian prison in May 2009, and it’s a great one. With lyrics taken from a Norse poem called “Völuspá,” Umskiptar has the feel of a concept album without relying solely on the concept. It is the slowest album Burzum has released to date, tempo-wise, but it is well rounded and well thought out. Umskiptar is definitely moody without venturing into the realm of shoegaze, proving once again that Vikernes—love him or hate him—is totally in his own realm when it comes to the music he creates. Hipster black metallers, Vikernes has one-upped you again. Black metal purists, don’t sleep on this, as much as you’d like to tell yourselves to. –Gavin Hoffman

The Chrome Cranks
Ain’t No Lies In Blood
Thick Syrup
Street: 01.24
The Chrome Cranks = the Cramps + the Nerve Agents + Heavy Trash
The pounding, pulsating, slowed-down rhythms of the Chrome Cranks sound dangerous and deadly, like a jungle cat ready to pounce. These hardcore blues punks play harsh primitive material that feels more methodic and purposeful than your average Black Flag knock off. After splitting in 1996, and reforming in 2009, the Chrome Cranks have created a record of unbridled rock n’ roll that can easily put to mind a gaggle of other bands, but still remains refreshingly original. Vocals and guitar work together on “Lover of the Bayou” to create a strange atmosphere that fits so well over the top of the unrelenting rhythms, that the sensationalist in me wants to call them the creators of a new genre I call swampcore. There’s not a lot of deviation from track to track, but their sound is so dense and rich that it’s not really needed. To dumb it down, I could say it’s blues for punks, but that’s only part of what’s going on here. –James Orme

Delicate Cutters
Ring
Skybucket
Street: 08.06
Delicate Cutters = 16 Horsepower + Slim Cessna’s Auto Club + Lucinda Williams
Sad and atmospheric is how this record starts. “Where the Cottonmouths Grow” has an emotion to it that sets in on your soul. This Alabama outfit knows how to set the mood, due in no small part to Kevin Nicholson’s inspired violin playing. After the positive reaction to their previous record, Some Creatures, it’s apparent the band felt the need to one-up themselves by using a broader palette of musical colors and expanding on their haunting take on folk and bluegrass. My main criticism is that while Janet Simpson’s vocals are agreeable, they lack a certain excitement that you would get from say, a Nick Cave, which would really set this record on fire. The record is a stunning piece of production—every note seems to have been given lengthy consideration to get the most out it. The Delicate Cutters have achieved a new level in their music, making them certainly a band to watch out for. –James Orme

Dinowalrus
Best Behavior
Old Flame
Street: 03.06
Dinowalrus = Titus Andronicus + Say Hi
Nearly every description of this band I have read uses the word “psychedelic.” I don’t think that is very apt, not with the amount of synth these guys use (and lack of creativity). Breathy vocals, perfect timing and heavy synth lines are reminiscent of late ’80s post-punk; however, they are often more Phil Collins than Joy Division. Generally, continuity on an album is a strong selling point, but the homogeneity of this album borders more on bland than cohesive. Except for a few catchy singles, this album is pretty forgettable, but people like forgettable—they very well could be the next The Killers or Neon Trees. –Cody Hudson

Dntel
Aimlessness
Pampa Records
Street: 06.05
Dntel = The Postal Service (duh) + E*vax + Glass/Reich + Copy + SoCal STRK
There is something somewhat magical about the way Jimmy Tamborello creates his beats and sounds. The Postal Service was one of the best collaborations to come out of the 2000s, even if you didn’t like Death Cab For Cutie (a band which I openly, vehemently loathe), and for me, what made that record work so well were the sounds. Tamborello tends to make electronic music that sounds warm and melodic, reminiscent of an 8-bit video game, full of anime animals and hugs. This is not quite that album, however. This is more of a moody gentleman, a little darker, with a little more of an ambient and scattered style, more like the pulse of an urban atmospheric landscape. Guest artist Baths fleshes out some of the ambience on the track “Still,” and the vocals lend it some grounding power, but wholly, the album thrives in the dream worlds where anything can happen until you wake up—and, even then, you’re just another set of taillights on the freeway. –Mary Houdini

Ed Schrader’s Music Beat
Jazz Mind
Load Records
Street: 03.20
Ed Schrader's Music Beat = Blank Dogs + The DZ Deathrays + Nic Cave and the Bad Seeds + Billy Bragg + Suicide + Skeptix
In an age where artists hate to verbally make clear-cut genre associations for their music, Ed Schrader’s Music Beat lets Jazz Mind totally confuse the listener as to what the band is “doing.” Opener “Sermon” blares with vocals akin to Phil Stanton in early Partisans work atop fuzzed-out, industrial-esque percussion; then the band slows down in the next track, “Gem Asylum,” with a sense of post-punk lethargy and introspection. They pepper the second half of the release with an abrasive, fast style with heavy bass and repetitive vocals, such as in “When I’m In A Car” and “Gas Station Attendant,” evincing a sort of bipolar, schizophrenic approach to developing the album as it progresses, which works well for the band. With unsettling lyrics like “How does a man become a dog? How does a dog get around? Do the maneuver,” Jazz Mind is an apt name for a truly inventive album. –Alexander Ortega

Emily Jane White
Ode to Sentience
Antenna Farm
Street: 06.12
Emily Jane White = Laura Gibson + Sharon Van Etten + Nick Drake
White’s third album is chock full of strings, piano and acoustic guitar-noodling, weaved together with dark lyrics and her somber voice. If you almost fell asleep through that description, good luck listening to Ode to Sentience straight through. The tracks feature repetitive themes throughout the record, with dramatic orchestral strings accompanying White’s smoky voice, which rarely fluctuates from a soft, delicate demeanor. The song “Requiem Waltz,” which appears near the end of the record, is one of the few refreshing breaks from the dragging sounds found on the rest of the album. The 3/4 time signature gives direction to the song, and you finally feel like White’s going somewhere instead of just floating around in the middle of the ocean at night. The album is filled with beautiful music, but at the same time, a lot of the songs sound the same, which makes it hard to stay interested. –Jory Carroll

Father Yod & The Source Family
The Thought Adjusters
Drag City
Street: 05.22
Father Yod = The Monks + Charles Manson + 13th Floor Elevators + Bardo Pond
Late ’60s/early ’70s cults are easy to caricature: the naming ceremonies, the robes, messianic, charismatic leaders using rock n’ roll as bait for the disenfranchised, meditating to levitate the Pentagon and couching utopian visions of the future in ridiculously opaque pseudo-religious ramblings. Father Yod has these in spades. On the other hand, it is easy to overlook his cosmically incoherent (and slightly misogynistic) teachings to get at what has made the proto-vegan and insanely prolific de-facto Ya Ha Wa 13 bandleader such a legend in underground tape-trading. Father Yod, who “taught” in improvised talk-sing rants and off-key belting, strikes a strange balance between Johnny Cash’s warble, Jason Molina’s tenor and the cadence of Thomas Builds-the-fire from the Sherman Alexie film Smoke Signals. When Yod really got going, however, he could whip his house band into ecstatic fervor, consistently reaching thetan-levels of unreachable psych bliss. Don’t shoot the messenger. –Ryan Hall

Gallucci
Click to Switch
Diepunkdeath
Street: 03.07
Gallucci = Unknown Instructors + Mike Watt + Joe Lally
Man, this is a strange record. First off, it’s not really a record. You can get it as a download from diepunkdeath.blogspot.com, or you can buy it as a mini-USB album—a sort of thick plastic card with a flip-out tab that inserts into your computer. Props for funky and unique packaging. As far as the music goes, it is heady and atmospheric, and it is the type of background music you would expect to hear when things are going smoothly in your life. It is quirky and fun, but not at all perky—just as it should be. The band is made up of two Australian brothers who work to layer strange recorded sounds, guitar riffs and mellow drum beats into a sort of ambient if not somewhat repetitive score. There is also a fair bit of clarinet and saxophone mixed in, but easy listening this is not. The two Aussies have acted as backing bands for several big names as they have toured down under, including Mike Watt and Joe Lally, who both make appearances here. Though there really aren’t any standout tracks, the whole album exudes a cool and laid-back vibe. –James Bennett

Gossip
A Joyful Noise
Columbia
Street: 05.22
Gossip = Peaches + Yeah Yeah Yeahs + Santigold
Rumor has it that Beth Ditto was listening to a lot of ABBA while recording Gossip’s fifth full-length album. While I openly admit to being a Ditto fanboy (I cheered when she removed her dress during their SXSW performance and was once pushed to the front of a pack of lesbians by my best friend during one of their shows at Urban Lounge—they weren’t thrilled), I just can’t fully embrace the effect ABBA might have had on this release. A Joyful Noise lacks the intensity of earlier Gossip albums and feels too much like a slick, overproduced disco record for my taste. The album isn’t bad, but it doesn’t seem to pack the punch that was found on their previous release, Music for Men. Although A Joyful Noise doesn’t give me quite the lady-boner that earlier Gossip releases have, it still has its high points. My favorite tracks were “Get a Job,” “Horns” and “I Won’t Play.” –Jeanette D. Moses

Havok
Point of No Return
Candlelight
Street: 05.22
Havok = Anthrax + Megadeth + Municipal Waste
Havok’s Time is Up was one of my favorite albums of 2011, so it’s great to see the Denver thrash crew putting out another release in 2012. Point of No Return is a four-track EP with two original songs, and two covers (Sepultura’s “Arise” and Slayer’s “Postmortem/Raining Blood,” respectively). The two new tracks are bangers, featuring tight-as-hell musicianship, whiplash-inducing breakdowns and terrific soloing. The thrash resurgence has been hanging out for a while and is on the downward slope, and so only a few worthy bands will remain. Havok is one of those bands. Instead of imitating their predecessors, they take musical cues and bring them into the present. Perhaps this is the best case that can be made for the cover songs, which are fun, but not necessarily substantial. However, when the updated riffs and modern-day rhythm of Havok is taken in context with those covers, you get a clear picture as to why these guys are the cream of the crop. –Peter Fryer

Heavy Cream
Super Treatment
Infinity Cat Recordings
Street: 05.08
Heavy Cream = The Kills x MC5
If you listen to this record and aren’t sold from the first impossibly degraded guitar chord, wait until you hear the vocals. Sounding like a Pat Benatar from the wrong side of the tracks, the singer manages to keep a coy edge to her voice even while snarling dangerously. Nashville’s Heavy Cream don’t merely have a wicked sound (assisted by production from Ty Segall), they crank out some of the fiercest garage blues since the White Stripes broke up. Pick this one up before it becomes trendy. –Nate Housley

Hecuba   
Modern
Germ
Street: 05.08
Hecuba = Laurie Anderson + Jane Siberry as Issa - the vocal and musical talent
Borrowing one’s band name from Greek tragedy is interesting, if not a tad pretentious, but unfortunately, the music of LA duo Jon Beasley and Isabelle Albuquerque does not quite match the sentiment. Taking their own self-indulgent experimentation too far, there is simply too much going on here for anything to gel. Instead, it is headache-inducing, with half-finished notions and half-formed melodies masquerading as songs, the worst of which is the title track. “Hurt You” has a decent introduction, but its horribly pedestrian lyrics and then its inexplicable veering away from its melody mar it beyond repair. Beasley is clearly the more talented of the two—at least musically—but he isn’t much of a singer, which instead is mainly left to the incapable hands of Albuquerque. Apparently, they are both to blame for the mess: sharing equal parts of the concept, the alleged “song writing” and the production, in addition to the arty-farty performance. –Dean O Hillis

Here We Go Magic
A Different Ship
Secretly Canadian
Street: 05.08
Here We Go Magic = Department of Eagles + half of Can
Here We Go Magic is a band name that has never been as fitting as it is now. Their third LP, A Different Ship (another coincidentally fitting name) is by far the most evolved and unpredictable record the Brooklyn act has released to date. For starters, those who haven’t gotten enough of the advertised “magic” with the previous releases will appreciate the extra dose which producer Nigel Godrich of Radiohead has layered on this album. As showcased on tracks such as “Make Up Your Mind,” HWGM strays away from their simplistic psych roots into denser art-rock and kraut atmospheres. Old fans can see the band’s evolution in the swaying and spacey “Alone But Moving,” as well as the modestly folkish “Miracle of Mary.” This album is a different ship indeed, one that very few would categorize as sinking. –Gregory Gerulat

Hot Water Music
Exister
Rise
Street: 05.15
Hot Water Music = Leatherface + Small Brown Bike + Against Me!
After eight long years, the holy saviors of punknews.org, the patron saints of The Fest and the idols of beard punks everywhere have returned with a new album. Of course, Hot Water Music hasn’t really been that inactive (frontmen Chuck Ragan and Chris Wollard embarked on solo projects, and three quarters of the band formed The Draft), so, in a lot of ways, Exister picks right up where The New What Next left off in 2004. Ragan’s voice is as full of fire as ever (seriously, the end of “Paid in Full” is still giving me chills), but the more contemplative side of his solo work also features prominently in songs such as “Drag My Body” and “Pledge Wore Thin.” Wollard’s songs are a bit more hit-and-miss—“Boy You’re Gonna Hurt Someone” probably shouldn’t be the second song on the album—but “Exister” and “Safety” are gems. Exister largely follows the same style of the band’s Epitaph-era output, and while it may not convert those who don’t already believe, it serves as an excellent comeback album for the band’s legion of fans. –Ricky Vigil

Huoratron
Cryptocracy
Last Gang
Street: 04.24
Huoratron = Optimus Prime + Mr. Oizo
Cryptocracy is like sound porn for the ears. Within seconds of the first track, I was swallowed in by Huoratron’s deep bass and eerie but hypnotizing tracks. The first track and title of the album, “Cryptocracy,” made me feel as if I was dance-battling against a robot, and I loved it. Combative synths, hypnotizing drums and cool robot voices make this album ideal for me. I love feeling like I’m on the Death Star chaperoning prom, which is exactly how I felt when listening “New Wave of Mutilation”; I couldn’t stop using the force to shake my ass! Heavy, fun tracks like “Bug Party” made the need to find a way to transform into a robot even more necessary, since that would be the only way to properly break it down to this album. Plus, robot sex is cool, and with Cryptocracy, it would probably blow my mind. Definitely a must-buy for any EDM fan. −Mama Beatz

The Inner Banks
Wild
DAG! Records
Street: 06.12
The Inner Banks = Slowdive + Beach House
I couldn't fault others for enjoying Wild, but it didn't work for me. The musicianship and composition throughout the record is impressive, but the lyrics are not very interesting at all. Sometimes, despite how weak or mediocre they may appear on the page, lyrics can take on an entirely different character and draw the listener in when sung. Unfortunately, such is not the case on Wild. I'd prefer it if the tracks were instrumental, because the Inner Banks achieve a sort of musical cinematic sweep suited for a drive or lazy afternoon in the sun. Fourth song, "Found Holiday," makes use of more electronic instrumentation than those that precede it. "Freaky" is anything but, and I was spending as much time listening during the first spin as I was trying to count how many times I'd heard the same or very similar melodies in other pieces of music. –T.H.

Jack White
Blunderbuss
Third Man Records
Street: 04.23
Jack White = The Dead Weather + Alabama Shakes + Jeff Beck
After years of being a “band guy” and a promoter of other musicians’ works, Jack White has finally come into his own. Being the sole writer of his first solo album, White creates a rock tour de force, seamlessly switching between traditional rock, blues, country and folk. Behind the powerful chords and falsetto vocals, White puts on a pure rock clinic with two different session bands, one made of all male performers and the other all women, with some tracks created on the spot with no song in mind. It takes a hell of a lot of talent to create something this vast and musically encompassing from little to nothing, and White executes it near perfectly with no ego or gimmick attached. This is one of those albums that people with rock aspirations will play repeatedly and dissect intensely for years to learn how to get that damn good. –Gavin Sheehan

Jherek Bischoff
Composed
Brassland
Street: 06.05
Jherek Bischoff = Beethoven + Mozart + vocals
The ultra prolific Bischoff—associated with Xiu Xiu, The Dead Science, and Parenthetical Girls, to name but three—has fashioned a pleasant and listenable orchestral-based concept album meticulously and exhaustingly recorded one instrument at a time. While having too many guests on an album can sometimes overwhelm it, the eight tracks that feature vocals boast a different turn on nearly all of them and somehow, they all work. The most famous guest here is David Byrne, appearing on the catchy “Eyes,” and aside from the chameleon-like turns by Bischoff himself on two other tracks, the most impressive feature female vocals: Mirah Zeitlyn on “The Nest” with violinist Paris Hurley, Carla Bozulich on the stunning “Counting,” and the especially lovely treatment of Dawn McCarthy on closing gem “Insomnia, Death and the Sea.” After a somewhat whimsical start, Composed turns much more dramatic, but with Bischoff at the helm, it never loses its charm. –Dean O Hillis

JP Harris and the Tough Choices
I’ll Keep Calling
Cow Island Music
Street: 05.01
JP Harris and the Tough Choices = Hank Williams + Merle Haggard
My momma raised me on oldies and country, and by “country,” I don’t mean that crap they play on country stations these days—I mean the good-old-boy, my-car-just-died-and-my-wife-left-me type country. JP Harris and the Tough Choices play that type of country. Hell, according to their Facebook page, they play “Country-Goddamned-Music,” and I can’t argue with that. While this is their debut album, the music seems seasoned and Harris’ voice sounds like it was created for no other purpose than singing honky tonk. “Gear Jammin’ Daddy,” “I’ll Keep Calling” and “I’m Stayin’ Here” stand out the most, although all of the songs are beautifully done. Head over to their website (ilovehonkytonk.com), have a listen and fall in love with some good old-fashioned country, then go see JP Harris and the Tough Choices when they come through Salt Lake at The Garage on July 5 or at Snowbird on July 6. –Johnny Logan

Lazer Sword
Memory
Monkeytown Records
Street: 04.27
Lazer Sword = 808 State + The Black Dog + Shlohmo + Link’s “Warp Whistle”
Upon doing my homework, this brainchild of Antaeus Roy (Lando Kal) and Bryant Rutledge (Low Limit) is steeped in the revival Detroit electronica. This is great! It’s like getting a history lesson about what that Detroit electronic music would sound like without being high out of your freaking mind. Raving was such a “thing” in the ’80s and ’90s, and lots of people jumped on the electronic-rave-house bandwagon. After wading through a generation of pure shit, there are still these gems that are actually influential and therefore, produce diamonds. That being said, this album is indeed a gem. As well as being a Detroit throwback, there is a great “nerd” factor going on here. I swear to God, there could be elements that sound like there’s some mission-style Legend of Zelda shit going on, and “Let’s Work” has an awesome Daft Punk meets Zapp and Roger vocal thing happening. Effortless transitions, awesome album, and I sincerely get the feeling that these guys are gamers or fanboys, which works in their favor. –Mary Houdini

Leigh Marble
Where the Knives Meet Between the Rows
Laughing Stock Records
Street: 04.24
Leigh Marble = Elliott Smith + Ani DiFranco
Don’t listen to this if you’re looking for something light and easy. Written during the process of his wife going through cancer, Marble’s folk-rock exudes truthful feelings of dread and darkness. The opening track, “Walk,” kicks off Where The Knives Meet Between The Rows on an angsty, sunken note that is maintained for pretty much the entirety of the album. Using creeping drums, soft piano and heavy strumming, this is stylistically and technically nothing you haven’t heard before; what makes it completely worthwhile is the cathartic lyricism. Take “Nail,” for example: “There at the end of your room, you’ll test the aerodynamics of hope.” I’d give this a listen the next time you think your life sucks—it’ll humble you the fuck out. –Kia McGinnis

Lou Ragland
I Travel Alone
Numero
Street: 03.26
Lou Ragland = Edwin Starr + Hot Chocolate + Northern Soul
Lou Ragland is one of those American soul singers that none of us have ever heard of. He cut his teeth playing buck-of-blood clubs in Cleveland in the 1960s, acting as vocalist, and playing the clarinet and the saxophone. He released a few records as a member of the black soul scene in Ohio before jumping ship for the bright lights of Las Vegas. He’s sung for many bands over the years, including Hot Chocolate and the Ink Spots, and has also worked with various soul record labels on the administrative end. Although his success came mostly from his work in Vegas in the early 1970s, Ragland’s early recordings show so much promise it almost hurts. This album, a three record set, brings together the bulk of Ragland’s recordings from his formative years in Cleveland. The best songs are from his time in Hot Chocolate. The tune “What’s Good For the Gander” is a classic ’60s, do-your-man-right song with a catchy groove and a sing-along chorus. “Ain’t That a Groove” follows the same model and does it just as good. In fact, every song on these discs kills. Proof once again that authentic American soul music is about as beautiful as music can be. –James Bennett

Lungfish
A.C.R. 1999
Dischord
Street: 05.14
Lungfish = Reptile House + June of 44 + Cone of Light
Lungfish is one of those bands that never seems to go away—at least not completely. And, believe me, this is good thing. They put out 11 albums between 1988 and their (mostly) permanent break in 2006. For a while, they were putting out a full-length record every year. It seems impossible that there would be anything recorded during the old days that hadn’t been released, but this disc seeing the light of day proves that Lungfish was even more prolific than anyone thought. A.C.R 1999 was recorded in Baltimore in 1999 but was never completely released. Several of the songs were re-recorded and made their way onto 2007’s Necrophones, but never came out in their original state. Four other tracks were never released at all. This recording keeps all 11 tracks from the original session intact. And what a session it was! Lungfish has always had the ability to pair the incredibly soft with the unfathomably hard. That unlikely pairing is all over these tracks. It is especially good when the rhythm acts as a pulverizing force behind the heavy distortion of guitarist Asa Osborne. Singer Daniel Higgs rough voice fits beautifully within the musical arrangement, as he delivers strange lyrics with the precision and skill of a manic shaman. Here’s hoping there are more albums like this in the Dischord vaults. –James Bennett

The M Machine
Metropolis Pt. 1
OWSLA
Street: 04.24
The M Machine = Knife Party + Boyz Noize + ELO
Skrillex has once again made my life a whole lot better, this time through his label OWSLA, with the release of the debut conceptual EP from The M Machine. After listening to the first song, I knew I was in for a delightful surprise. “Deep Search” made me feel as if I was on a quest for an epic party. “Black” is my new favorite song because it embodies everything I love about EDM: complicated synths, seductive drums and crazy drops. Seeping with talent in every track, the production skills behind The M Machine are undeniable. Metropolis Pt. 1 has a fluidity that I haven’t seen in a long time. This release took me along for an adventure of tantalizing synths and intense drum patterns that put me into a trance. –Mama Beatz

Marduk
Serpent Sermon
Century Media
Street: 06.05
Marduk = Antaeus + Arkhon Infaustus + Bathory + Dark Funeral
I challenge anyone to argue that Marduk hasn’t been consistently putting out good records since ’92. Devo and Evil have been the essential core of the band for decades, something I wish more black metal bands had. Serpent Sermon grabs your jugular with about as much subtlety as a dump truck in a minefield. The record comes off as a mix of Opus Nocturne and the overlooked 2003 record, World Funeral. There is ludicrous speed here in the drumming and some nastily good tremolo blazers—the stuff that makes you go, “Oh shit!” “Hail Mary (Piss-Soaked Geneflexion),” feels like repeated razors slicing skin in its particularly fast execution. The combination of speed and dirge works incredibly well. See “Souls for Belial” for one of your main reasons to tell the cynics that Marduk continue to be Satan-damned awesome. –Bryer Wharton

Melvins Lite
Freak Puke
Ipecac
Street: 06.05
Melvins Lite = weirder incarnations Melvins + Fantômas + Butthole Surfers
While not an official Melvins release (mainstays Dale Crover and Buzz Osborne and Fantômas alum Trevor Dunn have opted for the “Melvins Lite” moniker), Freak Puke could only exist in the gluey sludgi-verse these Aberdeen Kiss Commandos crafted three decades ago. While announcing its presence through steady bouts of freakishness (Freddy Krueger croons grunge on “Worm Farm Waltz,” and “Holy Barbarians” babbles like occult exercises in tuneless psych), its most straightforward rock moments rank as its best. Dunn’s bowed style of frenetic bass-playing and Crover’s masterful percussion come full force on tracks like “Leon vs. the Revolution” and the mutant, oddly accessible blues of “Let Me Roll It.” Growing, not showing, it’ll take a couple spins to find a meaty center, and while many won’t go with some of the odd seasonings, they always come with the Melvins’ territory. See you at Disneyland. –Dylan Chadwick

Mornin’ Old Sport
Self-Titled
Misery Loves Co.
Street: 07.10
Mornin’ Old Sport = Pokey Lafarge + Squirrel Nut Zippers + Tin Star
Mornin’ Old Sport touches on some vintage music areas that rarely get the attention they deserve, such as hot jazz, western swing, and many others. This quartet of musicians, who take their name from a line in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, obviously have a passion for these old-timey genres, and yet they manage to keep their own signature throughout the genre-hoping record. I definitely found the band at their strongest when they leaned toward country—the wanderlust feeling that comes through on “Broken Lamps” could pull tears from anybody. The jazzier songs either find their target through beautiful vocals and a pulled-back approach to the instrumental arrangement, or they fall far short, with lackluster rhythms and sleepy, boring instrumentation. However, there’s enough good here to hope for more from a very interesting and talented band. –James Orme

Nick Waterhouse
Time’s All Gone
Innovative Leisure
Street: 05.01
Nick Waterhouse = Mick Ronson - Amy Winehouse + Buddy Holly
Time’s All Gone could easily be subtitled “retro done right” in the extraordinary way that it replicates—with a crystal precision absent in most of its kind—an era, a style and a swagger so effortlessly. Waterhouse is something of a marvel then, especially since he is so young, as he is not merely following any retro trend—he’s helping preserve one. There is so much good, classic soul here that it is hard to pick a standout, but lead singles “Some Place” and “Is That Clear” are excellent examples of his prodigious talent. Ultimately, his mission statement is clearly “rhythm and rhyme.” Ably backed by his own band, The Tarots, and featuring the incredibly stunning female vocals of Allison Louie and The Naturelles, the album is both a breeze and a rush to listen to from start to finish, which these days is a small miracle in itself. –Dean O Hillis

Nick Waterhouse
Time’s All Gone
Innovative Leisure
Street: 05.01
Nick Waterhouse = Aloe Blacc + Charles Bradley + Sharon Jones
This freshly scrubbed Buddy Holly-look-a-like brings forth an authentic old-school R&B and soul sound on his debut album, Time’s All Gone. Only in his mid-20s, Waterhouse successfully channels the energy and style of those who’ve gone long before he entered the world. Waterhouse croons over distorted saxophones, guitars and drums throughout the album, making the entire experience reminiscent of listening to a handful of scratched 45s rescued from a 50-cent bin at a garage sale. Although soul revival groups are becoming a dime-a-dozen, Waterhouse manages to inject his music with a lively, youthful energy not always found in the genre. Time’s All Gone is a hip-shaking-leading-to-love-making sort of album. Enjoy its ride. –Jeanette D. Moses

Orbital
Wonky
ACP Recordings
Street: 04.17
Orbital = Orbital (Green + Brown era) + The Orb + µ-Ziq
Releasing their first album in eight years, Orbital is not fucking around. Not that they ever have, but they stride right out of the gate with the first track, “One Big Moment,” and proceed to hook the listener with technology and sound that is not only relevant, but that they practically invented and perfected and sent it in the form of shimmering soundwaves that bounce off your eardrums and fiddle with the volume. Obviously heavy hitters themselves, the Hartnoll brothers also got help from A-lister Mark “Flood” Ellis (PJ Harvey, NIN), as well as incorporating the vocal talents of Zola Jesus and MC Lady Leshurr. The kicker for me, however, wasn’t necessarily their twisted take at dubstep versus drum n’ bass in the monster track “Beelzedub,” but the ether-like, glassy sparkle of the anthemic “Distractions”—this is what made me really decide that they deserve to reclaim their crown. This is a solid comeback release for any electronic fan, new or old. –Mary Houdini

Part Time
What Would You Say
Mexican Summer
Street: 11.01
Part Time = Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti + The Chromatics + OMD
Part Time is the romantic murky synth-pop project from San Francisco’s David Speck. One listen to What Would You Say will send you to the breezy textures of the ’80s. Speck’s vocals are muffled, a distant echo and difficult to understand at times, but each track has its own distinct vintage quality. Dazzling electro minimalism dominates album opener “Thunderbolts of Love,” while “Living In Pretend (My Girl Imagination)” is backed against some off-kilter soft lighting, laying down a thick layer of charm. Warm percussion and a warped guitar roll over “In This Filthy City,” while jagged guitar and glimmering synths have complete control of “Riot In The Streets.” The album closes with “Cassie (Won’t You Be My Doll),” three minutes of pure bubblegum glitz. –Courtney Blair

Pinkunoizu
Free Time!
Full Time Hobby
Street: 03.26
Pinkunoizu = Animal Collective + Psychic TV + Popol Vuh
Some of the more aesthetically quirky bands are ones who’ll leave music critics digging in their genre toolkit for hours on end. To say the least, Pinkunoizu is not a garden-variety act. The album starts off with “Time is Like a Melody,” which heavily uses repetitious chambered chants, which is an element more prominent in freak folk. Tracks like “Everything is Broken or Stolen,” which features a cascading church organ over simplistic rhythm loops, smack slightly of early acid house wrapped with kraut. Unfortunately, whether due to the perpetual style fluctuation or the dominantly tame nature of the album, most of the hooks are well concealed, making this record suitable solely for patient, experimental snobs or psychedelic drug enthusiasts who need to beef up their soundtrack for Burning Man. –Gregory Gerulat

S. Carey
Hoyas
Jagjaguwar
Street Date: 05.08
S. Carey = Modest Mouse + Air
At 18 minutes, I was begging for this EP to get over itself and die by the last track. Too serious and overly convoluted, soloist Carey would put any well-to-do hipster to sleep faster than a Fellini marathon. Akin to a Kanye and Enya duet, Carey tries to convey his artistry through minimalist piano, drum machines and perhaps FruityLoops. Carey knows how to construct a song— however, this attempt at making elemental music drifts into sluggish art rock. The strongest track, “Avalanche,” mimics much of the successful traits of The Postal Service’s Give Up: melancholy vocals layered on top of slow-moving synth tones. Hoyas’ lack of creative energy is exacerbated by its self-awareness. Carey crafted this album, it has his own personality—too bad it only wants to talk about Phillip Glass and log cabins. Usually, I’m a sucker for his generic brand of talent—I wanted to like this, but not even Carey’s woodblocks and abuse of the auto-tune filter could twist my arm. If you’re really into Sleigh Bells or anything associated with Bon Iver, you’ll like S. Carey. –Alex Cragun

The Satin Chaps
Might I Suggest the Satin Chaps
Self-released
Street: 06.02
The Satin Chaps = Herb Alpert and the TJB + Ingfried Hoffmann + Dandy Warhols
There certainly is a place for 1960s-style go-go party music. I’m a sucker for anything that sounds groovy exotic like Martin Denny, or fun and beach-blanket dance-worthy, like the Ventures. Still, there is a certain been-there-done-that feel to anything modern that steeps itself too deeply in classic go-go/soul sounds. And once you add six white guys in matching satin costumes, it just gets pathetic. Sure, the players are all capable musicians and the horn section-heavy, organ-driven tunes do occasionally make me want to shake my ass, but the whole concept just seems hollow to me. The vintage instruments add a layer of authenticity to the project, but the lack of vocals (with the exception of a few group yells) and the fact that it’s missing that certain je ne sais quoi normally associated with ’60s party music makes the record flop. If I want white guys playing vintage ethnic music, I’ll put on a Herb Alpert record. If I want organ-driven instrumental soul music, I’ll spin something by Booker T. Jones. In short, I cannot imagine a situation where this throwback, faux-vintage music would be appropriate—unless I was DJing a party where I hated everyone. ¬¬–James Bennett

The Sexy Accident
Ninja Ninja Fight Darth Vader
Self-released
Street: 04.21
The Sexy Accident = The Cranberries + The Cure + ABBA
The standout aspect of this album is the focus on lovely melodies and vocal harmonies between male vocalist Jesse Kates and female vocalist Camry Ivory. The songs are generally fairly simple. The sing-song vocals are typically driving the sound, so if that’s your thing, you will probably like it. It’s pretty. I didn’t hate listening to it, but I wasn’t super excited either, so maybe it’s a little too familiar. Tidbits of worthless conversation left in the final mix, wavering delivery, and the fact that the album was named after the final song on the album, performed by Kates’ 5-year-old son, projects a very casual vibe—like they want you to know that they don’t take themselves seriously. Which makes it hard to take them seriously. –Ischa B.

The Shins
Port of Morrow
Columbia
Street: 03.20
The Shins = Broken Bells + Andrew Bird
When Port of Morrow opens up with “The Rifle’s Spiral,” the odd digital noises and dark tone really showcase where James Mercer has been musically as of late (Broken Bells) and for a moment, it sounds like it might be a more extravagant version of the Broken Bells album. However, the album continues, and The Shins we are all familiar with emerge, each song more upbeat and pop-tastic than the last. Port of Morrow feels like the logical step forward from Chutes Too Narrow (ignoring the eccentricities of Wincing the Night Away). Every noise is perfectly orchestrated and used to showcase Mercer wailing about with his nonsensical (always going somewhere but never actually getting there) approach. It has been five years since the last Shins’ album and it was worth the wait. –Cody Hudson

Siddhartha
If It Die
Neurotic Yell
Street: 05.01
Siddhartha = TV on the Radio x Jefferson Airplane
The project of singer Marlon Hauser, Siddhartha channels his soulful vocals through a paisley filter (not in a Lenny Kravitz way, though). “I Who Can Recall His Past Lives” starts with a bluesy guitar stomp and resolves halfway into a chant with hand cymbals. Siddhartha shines when they seem to forget their exploratory pretensions and just deliver what they’re good at—psych-derived, driving rock with killer vocals, as on “The Fire Next Time.” The moments when they’re trying to break ground ends up just sounding like a detour. –Nate Housley

Sidi Touré
Koïma
Thrill Jockey
Street: 04.17
Sidi Touré = Tinariwen + Imaginational Anthem Series + Toumani Diabaté & Ballake Sissoko
Thrill Jockey’s release of Malian guitarist/singer Sidi Touré’s latest album, Koïma, is a rare thing of beauty. Touré plays in a more sedated, hypnotic version of desert blues made famous by the likes of Terrakaft, and a more stripped-down version of Malian traditional music exported by Amadou & Mariam. Touré—a subject in Vincent Moon’s ethnomusicographic series The Take-Away Shows—plays his acoustic guitar with little accompaniment. A female singer, a ruddy violin and some light tabla percussion underscore Koïma’s journeys from sadness into hope and then back again. In tracks like “Tondi Karaa (The White Stone),” we hear echoes of heartbreaking restraint and the melancholy of Robert Johnson’s Chicago blues, as well as Clapton’s hard-driving appropriation of various disciplines. While equally influenced by Malian traditional music and Western blues, it is easy to see where blues gained its rhythmic foundation. –Ryan Hall

Sleep
Dopesmoker (Reissue)
Southern Lord
Street: 05.08
Sleep = Om + Electric Wizard + Earth
In the 16 years since it was originally recorded, Dopesmoker has become a legendary part of stoner and doom metal lore. Dopesmoker was the album that was supposed to “break” Sleep and earn a whole shitload of money for London Records—instead, the label refused to release the gargantuan 63-minute opus and dropped the band from their roster, ultimately causing Sleep to disband. Eventually, Tee Pee Records released the album in 2003, but it has since gone out of print. While it’s definitely a bummer that the demise of Sleep came about so early, they went out on one hell of a high note—no pun intended. This new version of Dopesmoker was remastered by Brad Boatright (From Ashes Rise), and it retains the thick, bong-rattling noisiness of the 2003 version while somehow managing to sound even louder. It has the bluesy swagger of Black Sabbath, the droning atmosphere of Earth, the proto-High On Fire solos of Matt Pike, and lyrics recounting the Messianic journey of The Weedian that, when combined with the new cover art from Arik Roper, recall Frank Herbert’s Dune. It hits all the hallmarks of heavy metal and draws influence from the past while looking toward the genre’s future. This is, without a doubt, the definitive version of Dopesmoker—follow the smoke to the riff-filled land and believe. –Ricky Vigil

Soso
That Time I Dug So Deep I Ended Up In China
Do It Yourself Bitch Productions
Street: 05.01
Soso = Tori Amos+ Nelly Furtado+ Xela
Loves it. Stockholm-based solo artist Soso created this home-baked album out of her own apartment, not that you would know that from listening to it. It’s super glossy and could totally pass for an electro-pop album that had shitloads of money thrown into it, but no—she just went ahead and whipped it out by herself, at home, no big deal. The songs are way cool, and on those that she sings on, her voice and varying delivery totally remind me of some of my faves. Soso’s vocals are sometimes raw and beautiful, sometimes auto-tuned and thoroughly modern. The whole album manages to come across as very emotional and personal, even through what can sometimes be sterilizing pop-production. Lyrics and phrasing get a little weird sometimes, but genius choruses tie it all together, and overall, I think it’s absolutely delightful. –Ischa B.

The Spittin’ Cobras
Year of the Cobra
Omega Records
Street: 03.20
The Spittin’ Cobras = Turbonegro + Racer X + AC/DC + Thunderfist
The Spittin’ Cobras are one of those bands that make you forget your pretentious, post-everything attitudes toward music for the sake of rockin’ out with the carefree disposition your parents had at the KISS concert in 1970-whatever. The Cobras and KMFDM share drummer Andy Selway and guitarist Jules Hodgson, who utterly rip through scales, and Hodgson taps, hammers and sweeps like he’s making love to one of the babes from Heavy Metal via playing guitar. His riffs are catchy to boot—the intro/main riff for “Built For Speed” gets my blood rushing, fist clenched and head bobbin’, and Hodgson throws in a killer lead effortlessly at the track’s climax. “10,000 Broken Bodies” exhibits singer Alx Karchevsky’s virtuosic yet ferocious vocal style as he teeters between singing and screaming—a beautiful timbre-point that’s indicative of a rock n’ roll vocalist’s prowess in my book. Year of the Cobra: win. –Alexander Ortega

Teen Daze
All of Us, Together
Street: 06.05
Lefse
Teen Daze = ARP + Double Fantasy + Gold Panda
There is a song on Teen Daze’s debut album called “The New Balearic.” Listening to this album, no one would ever accuse this kid of being subtle. Even though it is a bit on the nose, All of Us, Together is a pitch-perfect collection of songs that are soothingly hypnotic while being totally danceable. Firmly rooted in electronic dance music, Teen Daze takes a constructionist approach towards the muted derivation of house known as Balearic. All of Us, Together often begins with a single synth line played at a pulsating arpeggio that slowly unfolds from ambience to locked-in groove; from personal to communicable; from headphone music to blowing out speakers at Urban Lounge. Already a well-known name noted for stellar remixes of Tycho, Yeasayer and Seven Saturdays, well received online singles and co-headlining Denver’s Goldrush Music Festival, All of Us, Together is one of the most anticipated and delivered-upon releases of 2012. –Ryan Hall

Terrible Feelings
Shadows
Deranged Records
Street: 04.13
Terrible Feelings = Tom Petty + Heart + Cher
Shadows is a moody collection, and the tone of lead singer Manuela Iwansson’s voice won’t let you forget it. Everything is yearning, urgent and desperate, but set to a fast-paced, punk-laced backdrop. The album generally has a fast, ’70s rock vibe, but is modernized enough to demand attention nowadays. It all comes together really well, so I’m left saying that if one had to pick out a fault, it would be that Terrible Feelings aren’t tremendously original, and the songs run into each other a bit. Some catchy melodies help to break it up, like on “Darkness of Man” or “Shadows Follow Me,” but then the latter ends and “Simultaneous Beats” seems to pick back up where it left off. Really though, it’s a great album and I am sure that a lot of people will appreciate the consistency throughout. –Ischa B.

These United States
Self-Titled
United Interests
Street: 06.12
These United States = Wilco + Little Hurricane + Trampled by Turtles
I had fairly high expectations for this album after reading that it featured over 20 outside collaborations, most notably with John McCauley from Deer Tick and Laura Burhenn from the Mynabirds. But in the end, the band’s fifth studio album turned out to be just a mediocre listen. The band’s sound never strays far from a country-based style, which makes the album sound a bit hokey and repetitive by the time the last tune rolls around. The songs “Maps” and “The Angel’s Share” were the only numbers that really stuck out to me, mostly because they veered away from the country sound that seems to be favored by the band’s frontman, Jesse Elliott. Despite its robust list of collaborators, These United States ended up with a bland country album that lacks musical depth and energy. – Jory Carroll

Through the Sparks
Alamalibu
Skybucket Records
Street: 06.19
Through the Sparks = Blitzen Trapper + Blind Pilot + Wilco’s Summerteeth
Any band who has drawn comparisons to Jeff Tweedy is worth a solid listen in my book. While this EP is no Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, it is five songs’ worth of eclectic, endearing rock that makes you want to stomp your feet and move around. There is excellent use of guitar and piano on this album that creates a familiar, ’70s-era homey vibe. Alamalibu was recorded in a concentrated amount of time in a basement, which bleeds through the tracks and makes for a friendly sound—“Common Goals” being a prime example. This is a band to watch, as I expect a full-length album will be in the works as a happy follow-up to this satisfying EP. –Kia McGinnis

The Ting Tings
Sounds From Nowheresville
Columbia
Street: 02.24
The Ting Tings = The Sounds + Gossip
Confession time; you love unapologetic catchy pop songs. In 2008, the English duo The Ting Tings delivered some of the year’s best can’t-get-out-of-your- head songs with the release of We Started Nothing. In 2010, the duo deleted an almost complete album and checked back into the studio. The result is Sounds From Nowheresville, 10 tracks clocking in just over 33 minutes. “Hold your tongue now and let them listen to your silence,” Katie White sings over the crashing percussion on album opener “Silence.” If the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Flea and Blondie’s “Rapture” hooked up for a one-night stand, “Hang It Up” would be the result of the morning after. The sound of a repetitive squeaky rocking chair is worked into the reggae-infused “Soul Killing,” which is a highlight. However, Songs like “Day To Day” and “One By One” are filled with so much liquid cheese, they could be used as intro songs to a shitty MYV reality show about a group of young, over-privileged bitches. –Courtney Blair

Ty Segall and White Fence
Hair
Drag City
Street: 04.23
Ty Segall and White Fence = Thee Oh Sees + Strange Boys
It seems like every single month, I am handed a new Segall release for review (new full-length reviewed next month, no joke) and I am never disappointed, but I came awfully close with this one. This time, we are treated to a collaboration with Tim Presley (of Strange Boys and White Fence). On Goodbye Bread, we saw Ty Segall ditching some of the garage rock aggressiveness for classic rock guitar chops, and this album continues that trend. Segall is done with the ’60s and has moved on to the ’70s. The songs by Presley tend to be the hardest to get into, and his voice can be a bit jarring (they tend to sound like shitty George Harrison B-sides), but overall, the album is still solid. As the songs become more complicated, and Segall continues to churn out release after release, he is evolving faster than his genre. –Cody Hudson
 
Various Artists
The Inner Flame: A Tribute to Rainer Ptacek
Fire Records
Street: 06.20
The Inner Flame = Rainer Ptacek + Grandaddy + Emmylou Harris
The Inner Flame was originally released in 1997, with fewer artists involved, intended to assist in paying for Tucson, Ariz. guitarist Rainer Ptacek’s hospital bills. This augmented reissue is now a tribute to and celebration of Ptacek’s music and life (Ptacek unfortunately passed away in 1997 due to brain cancer). A tribute album may be judged based on how well it works as a sequence of songs, the quality of performance by each of the individuals involved, or if it speaks to the essence of the work of the artist to whom tribute is being paid. The Inner Flame succeeds in all regards. I enjoyed the tracks by Lucinda Williams and Calexico (the latter performing with Ptacek) the most, and am glad that Ptacek himself appeared on a few of The Inner Flame’s songs, as it will provide listeners with an idea of why the guitarist was so highly regarded. –T.H.

Video Love
Mon Ange
Lentonia Records
Street: 05.08
Video Love = Broadcast and The Focus Group + Plan 9 From Outer Space
I readily admit that I am a GIANT FAN of Stereolab and also somewhat of a Francophile, which made the bar for this album unacceptably high. So when I put this sucker on and it kicked into “Le Bruit des Machines,” I was extremely excited, as that opening track had all of the things that I love about Stereolab: namely, kitschy, synth-pop hooks and a woman sing/speaking en français (comme Brigitte Bardot, et Laetitia Sadier). With such high hopes for the rest of the album, it was doomed to ultimately turn into a kitschy B-movie about ’60s space travel, with too many vintage Casios thrown in. After listening to track after track of overlapping dissonant, poorly timed sound effects, and “edgy” vocals, mon coeur was sufficiently broken. However, I do feel that there is always potential for groups like this who try to mash together too many noisy genres, as I have a healthy respect for anyone not trying to sound like the fucking White Stripes or some shit, because who needs another band trying to do that? Maybe their next release will sound moins salissant. Bon chance, vous en aurez besoin. –Mary Houdini

Visioneers
Hipology
BBE records
Street: 06.12
Visioneers = J Dilla + Strictly Rhythm
Straight from London, producer Marc Mac offers a dizzying set of beat samples, from funk and jazz to alternative and soul. Recording here as Visioneers, Mac’s Hipology is truly a new media assortment and a must for any DJ’s mixing board. With tracks such as “Come and Play in the Milky Night,” where it is quite possible to feel like you’re C-walking in the Milky Way, this diverse sound is inventive and reminiscent at the same time. Radio sound bites are inserted in every song with short monologues and thoughts scattered in the audio, leading to texture and true nuance in the infused tracks. From the creative and provoking song titles to the cast (Baron, TRAC, John Robinson and many more), this LP offers endless fusion. The tape has essence that everyone will respect production-wise, which is an undeniably a rare feat in today’s industry. –Meera Masud

White Fence
Family Perfume Vol. 1 & 2
Woodsist
Street: 05.15
White Fence = Flaming Lips + Syd Barrett + George Harrison
Although this is the third full-length album from Tim Presley, the man behind White Fence’s music, I was not too familiar with his previous work and heard him only occasionally on KRCL. However, this double-volume record surprised the hell out of me with its unique blend of psychedelic-rock and folk. On tracks like “Do You Know Ida Know?” and “Hope! Servatude, I Have No!” the sound is eerily similar to the Beatles’ White Album at times. Despite the large amount of material, both volumes are similarly filled with a nostalgia-infused sound, but I never found myself bored while listening, as Presley keeps things interesting by rotating between mellow and louder tunes. If you’re a fan of George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass, then you will dig both volumes of Family Perfume. –Jory Carroll

White Hills
Frying on this Rock
Thrill Jockey
Street: 03.19
White Hills = Fu Manchu + Monster Magnet + Louder than Love-era Soundgarden
I have imagined, more than once, that I was Godzilla, smashing cities with gleeful abandon. Pretending the car is the Millennium Falcon? Done that, too. Thanks to White Hills, I have a new album to cue up as a soundtrack. Frying on this Rock is a visceral listening experience as well, not simply limited to imagination time, of course. Producer Martin Bisi and White Hills make a fantastic team, filling the sonic spectrum yet never letting things get muddy, never shying away from exploration. Several long fuzz-wah guitar solos appear in the foreground without apology. Frying on this Rock is not entirely without minor flaws; there is a segment of conceptual spoken word. However, with five good songs to make that quite easy to forget, I’d recommend this album to anybody seeking a solid psych/deep space metal record. –T.H.

Wordsmith
King Noah
NU Revolution Entertainment
Street: 06.19
Wordsmith = Eric B. & Rakim + Big L
The hardest things to combine in music are spirituality and hip hop, but Wordsmith has done it on King Noah, garnering major respect for his vision and narrative. The LP is a tribute to his young son, “his blueprint layout for life.” Wordsmith spits an emotional intro to every track. Dancing vocally on every bar, his infamous skill shines as he takes us on this life journey. The beats are rose colored, the vibe that of hope and positivity. Speaking of our hungry age on ”Generation X,” it seems as though he is pursuing the most important conversation of his life (he completely is) and that, my friends, is straight powerful. This hip-hop lullaby is well worth a listen, even if you’re out of the cradle and way beyond being saved. –Meera Masud